The Bargainomics Lady 

Judy Woodward Bates


The Name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to Him and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10, NLT).

So much meat on this seemingly little bone. First, note that the word the NLT translates as “godly” shows in some other translations as “righteous.” Both words refer to a person who is striving to follow God’s commands and teachings. With that under our belts, let’s look at a couple of other translations and then break down this passage a little.

“A tower of strength is the name of Jehovah, Into it the righteous runneth, and is set on high” (Young’s Literal Translation).

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runs into it, and is safe” (AKJV).

Note the word “LORD” in all caps. When you see that, it always means “LORD” has been substituted for YHWH, the letters for what eventually became written as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.” Early believers thought God’s name too holy to even speak or write. But that’s another lesson entirely.

Back to the NLT passage. And what exactly is a “fortress”? A fortified structure. “A strong tower.” A tower of strength.” The old hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” opens with this line: “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing…” What’s a bulwark? A protective wall. When we are IN Christ, we are within His protective boundaries. However, God’s walls are not a prison. We’re free to come and go and, unfortunately, many believers choose to spend a lot of time outside God’s protection by living contrary to how He says we must. And when do, we suffer needlessly.

Life has plenty of problems simply because we live in a fallen world. We can lessen those problems by choosing to live righteously.

And speaking of righteousness, today’s passage goes on to say “the godly run to Him and are safe.” Like a runner preparing for the Olympics, those who are walking daily with the Lord are spiritually ready to “run to Him and are safe.” Their situations may not even improve, but God’s peace surrounds them regardless. Those who aren’t spending daily time with the Savior aren’t spiritually able to “run.” Instead, these folks tend to go into panic mode.

Life is lived at high speed. I highly recommend preparing for the Olympics.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“But for you who fear My Name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture” (Malachi 4:2, NLT). 

I live out in the country, and one of the pastures I pass on a regular basis is loaded with new little calves right now. I so enjoy driving by and watching them. Those youngsters run and play and bounce around like puppies. Not a care in the world. And when I see them, today’s Bible passage comes to mind.

Can you imagine living forever in a place where there is “there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain”? A place where “All these things are gone forever”? (Revelation 21:4). That’s what the Lord promises to those who “fear [His] Name.”

What does it mean to “fear” God? Not to be terrified of Him whacking you every time you turn, like a cruel Father. He isn’t like that at all. It’s to have a heathly respect for Who He is and what He says. It’s to love Him so much that never want to hurt or disappoint Him. It’s to love Him so much that He’s truly your “first love” (Revelation 2:4, KJV).

The day is coming – and I believe it’s very near – when “the Sun of Righteousness will rise” and all who belong to Him will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye” (I Corinthians 15:52, KJV). Are you ready?

Speaking of “healing in His wings,” I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to this beautiful rendition of “He Is”:

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


In His presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared Him and always thought about the honor of His Name. ‘They will be My people,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. ‘On the day when I act in judgment, they will be My own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not’” (Malachi 3:5, NLT).

Is your name written on the “scroll of remembrance”? The Lord says those whose names are on it will be spared on the Day of Judgment “as a father spares an obedient child.” Are you “obedient”? The Lord will reward those who are, but things won’t look so good for those who disobey Him.

Certainly we all disobey at some time. We all sin at some time. But there’s a huge difference between messing up from time to time and living daily without putting God first.

Look at it this way. As a believer, you’re married to Christ – after all, the church is the Bride of Christ – see II Corinthians 11:2. He should be the One you try to please above all others. He should be the One you live for.

If you have an earthly spouse, how faithful are you to that person? How faithful does that person expect you to be? Unless one of you has a screw loose, there can be only one answer: 100 percent. No one wants a cheating spouse. Not even God.

Be faithful. Talk to God daily. Walk with Him daily. Pray, give, and live with Him as the center of your focus. I guarantee He won’t be the only one that notices the difference.

“Then you will again see the difference between… those who serve God and those who do not.”


Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


The purpose of My covenant… was to bring life and peace” (Malachi 2:5a, NLT).

What exactly is a “covenant”? A mutual agreement between two parties. Both parties make specific pledges and, should one party break his pledge, the other party is no longer obligated to keep his. Since the Lord is never going to break His Word, the only reason we humans aren’t bathed in “life and peace” is because of sin. We humans who promise to faithfully follow Jesus aren’t so faithful. Why is that?

Too often, we take the attitude that, once we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, our part is done. We’re saved. We’re heaven-bound. End of story. But that’s just not true. Why’s that? Because the Bible makes it very clear that true salvation is exemplified through righteous living, albeit imperfectly. If we’re alive in Christ, we’re productive Christians. Or as Jesus put it:

“Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (Matthew 7:20).

Not only do we sometimes take the attitude of having a done deal once we’re saved, we also tend to believe the Lord is somehow obligated to bless us simply because we claim His Name. Fact of the matter is, He isn’t obligated to do anything. And unless we align ourselves for His blessings through obedience to His Word, we’re in for a heap of unnecessary heartache and problems instead of a bunch of undeserved blessings.

Life dishes out enough trouble simply because we live in a sin-sick world. Why make bad matters worse by not living as the Bible tells us to?

God is the Ultimate Good Father, and He loves His children far too much to allow them to live contrary to His Word. He will get His child’s attention. Gently, at first. Then more severely if that child continues to ignore Him. And in the most severe of cases, I believe He reaches the point where He says, “Child, you’re not going to stay here and continue to embarrass Me.”

Tired of troubles? Don’t wait for the Lord’s discipline. Repent now. Obey now. And see new blessings unfold before you.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3, NLT).

When Jamie was 24 years old, she flew to Tanzania with $2,000 in her pocket, planning to stay and do mission work until her money ran out. One day at the church she was a part of there, she met an 8-year-old with a tiny baby strapped to her back. When Jamie asked the girl about the baby, she told her the baby’s mother was too sick to take care of him.

Jamie’s heart went out to this pitiful, malnourished child and she began buying formula and caring for little Junio herself. His mother, she learned, was dying with AIDS. (Through other events that can only be described as miracles, Junio didn’t contract AIDS.) Jamie fell in love with the child. When she visited the birth mother, the woman told her, “I have heard how you are caring for my son. I’ve never known such love. I want to be saved.” Jamie was able to lead her to Jesus, and that dear lady died knowing she would one day see her son again in heaven.

The next hurdle came when Jamie decided to adopt Junio. Tanzania didn’t allow international adoptions. But as Jamie prayed, she learned that she could claim residency in Tanzania since, at that time, she’d already been there over six months. By the time Jamie finished the adoption process and mounds of paperwork to be able to bring Junio to the U.S., she’d spent 18 months in Tanzania.

Since that time, Jamie has gotten married and given birth to two daughters. For several years, she and her family were living in Tanzania and working with Wycliffe translating the Bible into several African languages. Today, they’re back in the States and continuing their ministry with Wycliffe. You can read more about the Langs and Wycliffe at:

Great things for God can be small things in the eyes of man. Few people have heard of any of the people we’ve looked at the last few days. But God knows every one of them. And He’s blessing their lives and their work as they dedicate everything to His glory. I hope you’re inspired to do more for the Kingdom. When God’s on your side, you’re unstoppable.

If what they are planning is something of their own doing, it will fail. But if God is behind it, you cannot stop it anyway, unless you want to fight against God” (Acts 5:38b-29a, CEV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God” (II Corinthians 1:8-9a, NLT).

Simpson Rebbavarapu’s parents left him at an orphanage in India when he was around age 4 – they were too poor to feed another mouth and they hadn’t even bothered to name him. While still pregnant with Simpson, his mother had taken herbs other village wives had offered her so she would abort the baby. This didn’t work. Then she went to a clinic to have a doctor perform an abortion. That day, the doctor failed to show up. Simpson, like every baby God creates, was meant to be born.

Today, Simpson is a busy guy, helping run an orphanage he began and also working to bring audio Bibles to the illiterate in India and other Asian countries. Simpson has never married. He is totally devoted to the work of the Lord. He accepts no salary, simplying stating that having to constantly depend on God for his provision keeps him in prayer.

Simpson could have decided to make his life all about poor, poor pitiful him. He could have dwelt on his past as a child given up by his own parents and blamed that trauma for never getting anywhere in life. Instead, he chose to look at the miracle of his life. He chose to give thanks for his years in the orphanage and use that as motivation to help other orphaned and needy people.

I’ve never experienced the kind of hardships Simpson has, but I have been in circumstances that showed me I had nowhere else to turn except to Jesus. And always, always, He’s come through for me. And He will for you, too.

“We have placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us” (II Corinthians 1:10b).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“I was sick and… you did not look after me” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 25:43b, NIV).

I’ve been listening to the audio of Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God. If you’ve never read it or listened to it, I highly recommend it. In it, Chan encourages believers to actually act like Jesus: care more about others than ourselves; help others instead of ourselves; give more than we keep. He offers several examples and, over the next few days, I want to look at some of those, starting with Nathan Barlow.

Nathan was a doctor who learned about the horrible suffering of people with mossy foot, a debilitating disease scientifically known as podoconiosis, found in people who work in volcanic soil. It can cause such horrible deformity and pain that people with mossy foot are shunned like lepers. Dr. Barlow spent his life treating and working with the people of Ethiopia who were suffering from mossy foot.

When Barlow’s own health began to fail, his daughter brought him back to the U.S. so she could care for him. He was so miserable that, within weeks, she ended up flying back to Ethiopia with him so he could spend his last days with the people he had grown to love in the place that had become his home.

Earlier on in his work, Barlow had developed a toothache so painful that it became necessary for him to fly to a dentist who could help him. While there, he told the dentist to go ahead and pull all his teeth and make him false ones. He said he didn’t want to be hindered from God’s work by another tooth problem.

Not many people have ever heard of Nathan Barlow or mossy foot. But Nathan wasn’t in it for recognition. He was in it to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a neglected and needy people.

What are you in life for?

Dr. Barlow is now in heaven, but his mission work continues. Read more at:

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘Listen, you priests – this command is for you! Listen to Me and make up your minds to honor My Name,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘or I will bring a terrible curse against you’” (Malachi 2:1-2a, NLT).

Two things to note right off the bat here:

(1) The Lord is addressing the priests. Who are the priests? First Peter 2:9a tells us: “…you are a chosen people. You are royal priests…” All who belong to Jesus Christ are “royal priests” with Christ as “High Priest” (Hebrews 9:11). I don’t think it’s any stretch at all to identify modern-day believers as priests addressed by Malachi’s warning today just as the Levitical priests were warned in Malachi’s lifetime.

(2) Over and over in the book of Malachi, the Lord identifies Himself as “the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Literally, “Jehovah Sabaoth.” Why that particular title? It shows His might; His realm – all heaven and earth and all creation; His power; and His victory. God is making the point that He takes it very seriously when His Name isn’t properly honored.

The very day (yesterday) I posted the study about not cheating the government or the Lord, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in years. As we talked, he told me he had retired but was doing odd jobs to make a little extra money. Then he went on to astound me. “And this,” he said, “is what I call ‘free money.’ All cash. I don’t even have to pay tax on it.”

Uncle Sam will probably never find out about all his side jobs. But who does know? God. I wish I’d never had that conversation with my friend. I’d always thought of him as a dedicated, 100% honest Christian. It grieves me to realize that he or any other believer can not only be dishonest, but think so little of it as to be perfectly comfortable talking about it. My Bible tells me that “All wrongdoing is sin” (I John 5:17a, ESV).

Folks, Jehovah Sabaoth ain’t playin’. He’s patient, but He won’t withhold His hand forever. If you’re His child and you’re doing anything wrong or failing to do what you know is right, your Heavenly Father will get your attention. Best to repent and make things right before He has to take you to the woodshed.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


The past several days I’ve talked about the importance of putting God first. One of the passages we looked at yesterday was Matthew 6:33 in which Jesus says, “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (KJV).

What “things shall be added”? Philippians 4:19 answers that question: “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” When you are faithful to the Lord in both your giving and living, He will bless you.

Does being blessed by God mean a trouble-free, wealth-filled life? No, but it means giving and living to honor Him aligns you for blessings you would otherwise miss out on. Case in point: Larry and I had to pay $266 in income taxes. Why? Because we report every cent we receive, even if it’s only a few dollars someone insists on Larry taking for helping with a repair job. After all, Jesus instructed us to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Mark 12:17a). I’m not going to cheat my government or my Lord.

Which brings me back to the amazing, unexpected, undeserved blessings of God. Within days of finding out what we owed on taxes, Larry received $25 from a friend he’d helped with some yard work. During that same time, I received two unexpected checks: one for $50 and one for $174. That money covered all of our taxes except $17. What a blessing!

Let me make a couple of things clear: (1) God’s blessings aren’t necessarily financial; and (2) God’s children still have problems. But when our intentions are to live for Him, and we back that up with entrusting Him with the “firstfruits” (Exodus 23:19) of our labor, we’re under the spout. We’re positioned to receive whatever blessings He chooses to add to all the goodness He’s already poured over us.

I don’t know about you, but the day He saved a wretch like me was far more than I ever deserved if He never did another thing for me. When’s the last time you thanked Him for lifting you “from the pit of destruction”? (Psalm 40:2b, ESV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should He show you any favor at all?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings… you dishonor My Name with your actions. You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the Lord,’ and you turn up your noses at My commands,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Malachi 1:9, 10b, 12a, 13a, NLT).

God doesn’t want our leftovers. Not of our time. Not of our money. Not of our thoughts. He says and means, “…seek ye first the Kingdom of God…” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:33a, KJV), or as the NLT words it: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else…”

If all God gets from us are our leftovers, He can’t be first in our lives. Over and over we read in His Word that He must be first: Bring the best of the firstfruits… to the house of the Lord your God” (Exodus 23:19a, NIV). We may not be farmers, but we all have incomes from one source or another. When those deposits hit our wallets or our bank accounts, “the firstfruits” of those paydays belong to the Lord.

Just how serious is He about being first? Look at Revelation 3:16: “…since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (NLT). That little word translated “spit” (or “spew” in some translations) is actually a picture of projectile vomiting. It turns God’s stomach to see His people treating Him as less than Who He is.

I can’t sit here and tell you that I put the Lord first in all I say and do, but that is my desire every day. Tithing and giving offerings has become a wonderful discipline for me and Larry, and we wouldn’t think of not giving the Lord our “firstfruits.”

But honoring the Lord is about much more than money. It’s about giving of ourselves; dedicating our lives to honoring Him and setting an example that draws others into the Kingdom. It’s not “too hard to serve the Lord.” Don’t “turn up your noses at [His] commands.” Obey Him in your giving and living and see Him “pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in!” (Malachi 3:10b).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


You have a neighbor you know is really struggling financially. You’re cleaning out your fridge and find some items that have been in there long enough to grow fur. You load them into a nice little gift bag and walk over to your neighbor’s. “Here,” you say, “I thought you might be able to salvage something edible out of all this. Bon appetit!” You wave and toddle back home.

Don’t you know your neighbor is thrilled by your generosity? No, she’s more likely hurt, humiliated, and insulted. After all, in essence, you just told her she was only worthy of the things you no longer deemed fit to consume yourself. Our Heavenly Father isn’t pleased when we treat Him that way, either. Look at what He says in Malachi 1:6b-7:

“A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your Father and Master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for My Name! But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for Your Name?’ You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on My altar. Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?’ You defile them by saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect” (NLT).

While we no longer need to or bring animals to church as sacrifices, what we are still required to do is bring our tithes (10 percent of our gross incomes) and offerings – and as the Bible makes very clear, an offering is a gift given above and beyond the tithe. When we withhold from the Lord what is rightfully His, we’re treating Him exactly as our neighbor in the scenario above: “Here, God. This is how much you mean to me.”

In today’s society the Lord receives little “honor and respect” – none from secular society and pathetically little from those who claim to be His own people. When we take the attitude that the church isn’t going to get “our” money and we can take it or leave it in every other way, we are “saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect.” The house of God deserves our best. It’s the family home. Don’t neglect it. Love it and support it.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26, King James 2000).

This has probably been one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible. Why? Because of one word: “hate.” You see, the word translated “hate” is actually a word meaning “to show less favor to,” or “love less.” We see this same word used in Genesis 29:31: “And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.”

Jacob certainly didn’t hate Leah, although she wasn’t his first choice for a wife and he was actually tricked into marrying her – see Genesis 28-29 for the whole story. Jacob simply loved Rachel more.

God doesn’t want us to hate anyone, either. What He does want is to be our “first love” (Revelation 2:4). Our love for Jesus Christ is to be above all other loves in our lives, including “father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters.” Which is why the NLT (New Living Translation) renders a better understanding of Luke 14:26: “If you want to be My disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison – your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be My disciple.”

Jesus says our love for ourselves and all these others should dim “by comparison” to our love for Him. I don’t know about you, but I can’t honestly say I have that kind of love for my Savior. I’m learning to. I’m growing in my faith. But I have a long, long way to go.

But here’s the thing: He knows that. And He understands that. We are works in progress – the operative word there being progress.

Your Heavenly Father knows exactly how you feel about Him. He knows exactly how your love for Him stacks up against your love for everyone and everything else. So simply confess the truth to Him. Ask Him to help you love Him more every day. Then do your part by staying in His Word and regularly spending time in prayer and fellowship with other believers.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“And may the Lord reward you for your kindness…” (Ruth 1:8a, NLT).

Kindness is a scarce commodity these days, and Christians, of all people, should be the quickest to dish it out in our actions and in our words. Likewise, we should respond to acts or words of kindness with, at the very least, a sincere “Thank you.”

First, we should daily thank the Lord for His abundant goodness. Secondly, we should make certain we express our gratitude for every kindness shown to us by anyone, whether family, friend, or total stranger.

A few days ago, I was in a drive-through line at McDonald’s. As I placed my order and started to pull forward, a car pulled out in front of me from the second drive-thru lane. It was a close call, but we didn’t exchange any paint. When I reached the window to pay for my order, the cashier told me, “That car in front paid for yours.” I looked up in time to see the car pulling away from the pick-up window and I could see the driver’s face in his rear view mirror. I threw up a hand and waved, mouthing a “Thank you.”

I may have been a split second ahead of that other guy going toward the window to pay, but what happened between our two cars was no big deal. Certainly nothing to warrant him paying for my food. And yet this man wanted to make sure he apologized for this very small incident. And I wanted to make sure he knew I appreciated his kindness.

No matter how busy you are, there’s no excuse for failing to thank people. That card you got in the mail? Give that person an actual phone call or text message or online message. Let them know that kindness meant something to you. Did someone let you over on the crowded interstate? Wave a big “thank you.” Don’t just pull over and keep going.

If we are Whose we say we are: that is, members of the body of Christ, then we need to be the most gracious people on the planet. Make “thank you” a major part of your vocabulary. Use it generously. When someone holds a door for you. When someone stops to allow you to cross a busy parking lot. At every opportunity. Consciously look for reasons to say “thank you.” That simple act of kindness may make the difference in someone else’s day.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Give in proportion to what you have” (II Corinthians 8:11b, NLT).

While I’m still on the subject of giving, let me point out that sending money to a TV or radio evangelist is not putting money into “the storehouse” (Malachi 3:10) because “the storehouse” is specifically the local church. When there’s a need in your community, it’s the local church who helps out, not the folks on TV or radio.

Is it okay to send these folks money? If the Lord prompts you to do so, then do it. But also do your homework. Know to whom and what you’re giving. Peter Popoff has been around for years and years and, even after being exposed as a complete charlatan, still manages to keep a TV program going and money pouring in, though the writer of a 2017 GQ article notes that when he signed up for Popoff’s “miracle water,” the constant flow of mail he began to receive from Popoff’s ministry always included in big, bold letters: “REMEMBER YOU MUST SOW THE LARGEST BILL YOU HAVE OR THE LARGEST CHECK YOU CAN WRITE.”

I was a young adult when my mom went to heaven, but while she was still with us, she made regular contributions to at least two TV evangelists. These gifts were in addition to her and Daddy’s tithe and neither of these ministries promised her miracles or prosperity. She simply wanted to have a part in what they were doing to spread the Gospel. There’s no better or less selfish reason for giving.

But first and foremost, give your tithe. If your monthly income is $1,000, give your local church $100. The Lord doesn’t expect us to all give the same amount; that’s why we’re told to tithe: “Give in proportion to what you have.” What may be a drop in the bucket for one person may be a real sacrifice for another. Giving 10 percent, even if your gross income (before taxes) is minimal, is a way of stretching your faith and allowing the Lord to show you how He fulfills His promises – see Malachi 3:10.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:38, NLT).

For months before my Daddy went home to be with the Lord, he was physically unable to get around very much. He also suffered from the early stages of dementia. But some values were so deeply ingrained that even that horrible disease didn’t take them away from him. And one of those things was his tithing.

When Daddy’s retirement and Social Security funds hit the bank, he wrote out his tithe. When he could no longer write his own checks, he had me or my stepmom make his check out. Even when he couldn’t remember what day of the month it was, he’d ask, “Is it the first? I need to pay my tithe.” Just because he could no longer physically attend his church didn’t mean he wasn’t just as dedicated to supporting it.

My Daddy’s love for Jesus couldn’t be killed by poor health. It couldn’t be killed by dementia. When I read the New Living Translation of Romans 8:35, 37, I can almost see my Daddy standing and proclaiming its words: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

Don’t be stingy. Be a giver. You are blessed to be a blessing, not to hoard it away. Remember: “The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put Me to the test. Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse… Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing” (Malachi 3:10, CEV).

Nowhere else in the Bible will you find a passage like this one, where the Lord actually invites believers to test His faithfulness. Christians should support their churches – “the storehouse” – financially, and tithing 10 percent of your gross income is what the Lord asks. In return, He makes this promise to tithers: “I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing.”

“Oh, that church ain’t about anything but money,” I’ve heard many people say. But without exception, I’ve found the person making that statement is someone who either doesn’t go to church at all, or sporadically goes and gives little or no money.

What a lot of folks don’t realize as they drop their two dollars in the offering plate is that they aren’t giving an offering, even though that may be what they call it. See, an offering is something given above and beyond the tithe.

Wanting to collect on the blessings of God may not be the right reason for becoming a tither, but the Bible clearly promises blessings to those who tithe. The Lord goes on in the very next verse to explain one blessing bestowed on tithers: “I will also stop locusts from destroying your crops and keeping your vineyards from producing” (Malachi 3:11).

While most of us don’t depend on agricultural crops for our income, it’s easy to grasp the meaning of this passage: when you trust God with 10 percent of your income, He blesses you and wards off a lot of the problems you might otherwise have. That old clunker will just keep right on humming along. That major roof problem will turn out to be a simple need for some caulking.

Until we can trust God with our finances, we certainly aren’t capable of trusting Him with the other areas of our lives. For the next 90 days, take the tithing challenge and see the faithfulness of God like never before.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…it is love that strengthens the church” (I Corinthians 8:1b, NLT).

Imagine calling your doctor’s office and being told that your doctor will meet you at Burger Buddy. You think that’s a little weird, but, hey, you need to see him. So you walk in and slide into the other side of the booth, a puzzled look on your face. “Why are we here?” you ask.

“Oh, I got burned out on going to the office. I don’t do that anymore.” He opens his medical bag, takes out his stethoscope, and says, “What seems to be the problem?”

Are you going to tell him? Are you going to submit to an exam in your burger booth? I don’t think so. The minute that doctor told you he didn’t go to his office anymore, his credibility with you was completely shot.

Likewise with a professing Christian who rarely or never attends church. Folks, it is imperative that we practice what we preach. If you love Jesus, you must love His church. No, no earthly church is perfect, but with hundreds within easy driving distance, there’s no excuse for not settling into a church home unless you are physically unable to get out and about.

And may I add here that I know many dedicated believers who are pretty much homebound. But on the flip side of that, I know a bunch who say they can’t sit through church or walk well enough to attend church. However, these same people go tearing through Walmart on scooters or anywhere else they really want to go.

It was love that kept Jesus on the cross – love for me and you. And “…it is love that strengthens the church.” Love Jesus, love His church. Support it with your presence and financially.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, GNT).

When we do a good deed, speak a good work, or do anything whatsoever to help or in any way benefit or encourage another person, that word or action should do one primary thing: lead others to “praise your Father in heaven.” If all I accomplish by posting devotionals and bargains is to create a following for Judy Bates, I have miserably failed. But if I point people to Jesus and help them to draw closer to Him, then and only then is the Lord pleased with what I do.

How about you? Do you love to get that pat on the back, that compliment about your being such a hard worker, your name in the church bulletin or program? Human nature loves being seen and known, but Christians aren’t to point to themselves, “Look at me!” They’re to point to the Savior.

I’ve written several drama skits and full-length Christmas programs, none of which have ever been performed with my name on the program. Why? Because I asked that my name not be published. I don’t want people complimenting a person. I want them talking about how the Lord got their attention or touched their hearts through the presentation.

A lot of the good you do will never so much as earn you a “thank you.” A lot of the good you do will never be acknowledged or reciprocated. But don’t let that discourage you or stop you. The One who really matters sees everything you think, do, and say and, whether anyone on earth ever notices, He will one day tell you, “Well done, you good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21a), and that, my friends, will be worth everything.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up” (Deuteronomy 11:18a, 19, NLT).

Do your kids, grandkids, other family members, friends and neighbors hear you talk about Jesus? If not, why not? Perhaps it’s because you’re afraid one of them will ask you a question you can’t answer. If I let that stop me, I’d be in big trouble. There are so many questions I can’t answer.

Don’t let the enemy intimidate you into silence. Jesus said in Matthew 10:33, “…everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before My Father in heaven.” Refuse to be a silent Christian. If you’re asked a question you can’t answer, simply say, “I don’t know, but let’s look it up together right now.” Then start digging – even Google knows the Bible!

Talking about Jesus should be as natural as breathing – after all, He’s the One that made those lungs you’re using and the air you’re breathing. Also, if you’re going to talk about Jesus, be a faithful follower. Your attendance and support of a local church is vital.

Your attitude toward church is a direct reflection of your attitude toward the Lord. After all, the church is the Bride of Christ for whom He was willing to suffer and die. I’ve talked to so many people who say they don’t go to church any more because someone offended them, or because they’re waiting for their spouses to go with them. Honey, if church means diddly-squat to you, you’ll find another church to be a part of. You’ll go with or without that spouse.

Let me ask you a serious question: If Jesus were as faithful to you as you are to Him, would you be okay with that?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NLT).

In his book Full Surrender, J. Edwin Orr talks about the time he was in the audience at Oxford when Bishop Stephen Neill told about hearing a Christian evangelist from India tell the story of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15): “The evangelist pointed out that when the prodigal… walked his weary way home,… he could not have understood the enormity of his offence. Even when his father rushed out to meet him, even during the welcome-home banquet, he did not fully understand. It was not until some days afterwards that the prodigal noticed that his father’s hair had turned white in his absence. Then he appreciated the cost of forgiveness.

Loving other people can be painful. Emotional hurt can be as agonizing as a knife in the heart. Worrying about a person you love can make you older than your years.

I never doubted my parents’ love for me, yet how many gray hairs did I give them? How much emotional hurt did I cause them? I could say I wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t all that bad, either. But truth is, every time I disobeyed, I hurt them.

Every time I disobey my Heavenly Father, I hurt Him. And hasn’t He already been through enough on my behalf? He didn’t deserve to be spat on or beaten or mocked. He didn’t deserve the humiliation of being nailed naked and bleeding, in agony, to a cross. He didn’t have to do any of that. But He considered ME worth it. He considered YOU worth it.

Jesus said, Don’t you realize that I could ask My Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and He would send them instantly?" (Matthew 26:53). Our Savior had an easy out. And He’d done absolutely nothing wrong. He was perfect in every way. He was fully God yet fully man. But He stayed on the cross, experiencing every moment of suffering just as any other human would have, because as the Only Perfect Sacrifice, only He could once-and-for-all pay the sin-debt that we owed. That, my brothers and sisters, is Perfect Love.

It was no small thing He did for us. So live to thank Him. How? By treating others the way you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). By loving others so much it hurts (John 3:16). By not giving up on those who’ve gone astray or have never come into the family of God (Luke 15:20). By being a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9). By being a faithful follower on Sundays and the other six days of the week, too (Ephesians 5:25).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Ananias and Sapphira were two members of the early church. The Christians were so excited about their newfound faith that they began to sell their properties and belongings and bring the money to the apostles so that no brother or sister in Christ would be in need – see Acts 4:32-37.

But one couple, Ananias and Sapphira, cooked up their own plan. They “… sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest” (Acts 5:1b-2, NLT).

Ananias and Sapphira wanted the praise and attention the other believers had gotten, but they also wanted to hang onto part of the money. So Ananias brought some of the sale price to the apostles and told them that was the full amount they’d gotten – see Acts 5:2. And if you look down to verse 7, you’ll see that Sapphira backed up this lie by telling one of her own.

No one had asked Ananias and Sapphira to sell anything. Which is why Peter said, “The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” (Acts 5:4). In no time at all, Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead.

It’s a serious matter to lie to God. And that’s why I want to take a second look at our closing verse from yesterday: “There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before His eyes. And it is to Him that we must all give an account of ourselves” (Hebrews 4:13, GNT).

Contrary to what we hear sometimes about standing before the Lord as a “movie” of our lives passes before us, we’re going to be verbal participants. God isn’t going to tell us what we’ve done. We’re going to tell Him. Each of us will “give an account” and we dare not leave anything out – He already knows everything anyway. And we certainly can’t lie. The bare naked unvarnished truth must be told. By our own lips.

I don’t know about you, but that scares me senseless when I think of all the times I’ve said and done things I shouldn’t have and neglected things I know I should have done. I hope you’ll write out Hebrews 4:13 and keep it with you. I’m going to. I need this daily reminder to watch my speech and actions.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Don't criticize one another” (James 4:11a, HCSB).

When unbelievers hear professing Christians being critical of other people, including their own brothers and sisters in Christ, that criticism destroys what might otherwise have been an opportunity to share the love of Jesus. After all, if we can’t love the family of God, how can we love those who don’t belong to Jesus?

And let’s take that thought one step further. Those who have yet to know Jesus must be thinking, how can God possibly love them when His own children don’t even love each other? After all, the moment a person accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he begins the transformation of becoming more and more like Jesus. And folks, if people see criticism and negativity in those of us who claim to be Christ followers, they’ll assume we learned it from our Father.

What does the Bible say about having a critical attitude? “Why do you criticize other followers of the Lord?” (Romans 14:10a, CEV). Emphatically, Paul says we’ve no right or justification for doing that, which is why he goes on to say: “…let us no longer criticize one another” (Romans 14:13a, HCSB). Cut it out. If you can’t say something nice, zip your lip. And here’s another very good reason to do that:

“There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before His eyes. And it is to Him that we must all give an account of ourselves” (Hebrews 4:13, GNT).

One day each of us will stand before our Holy God and “give an account of ourselves.” What will you say about how you’ve talked about and treated other people?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you His peace at all times and in every situation” (II Thessalonians 3:16a, NLT).

A few days ago I had lunch with two friends. One of them lost her son in a fire. The other friend has a son serving a jail term. And in my case, as most of you know, I haven’t seen my son in over 12 years simply because he chooses to stay away from all our family.

So what did me and my friends talk about? The thing we have most in common. The heartache over our sons? Nope. Wrong answer. What we talked about was the amazing peace that the Lord has blessed each one of us with.

How is it possible for the three of us to have such peace? Because we were willing to: (1) ask for it; (2) receive it; and (3) believe it.

I could stand here all day long holding out a gift for you, but you’d never benefit from it, let alone possess it, until you accepted it. Likewise with the peace of God.

Do you have His peace? If not, ask the Lord for it. Open your heart, mind, and spirit to receive it. Then confess it as truth: “Lord, I receive your peace. Help me to live in it.”

Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you His peace at all times and in every situation” (II Thessalonians 3:16a, NLT).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Lead me by Your truth and teach me, for You are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in You” (Psalm 25:5, NLT).

Thelma is the sole passenger in a small private plane headed to a tropical island. As the plane hums along, the sun reflects in the brilliant blue waters below and Thelma smiles as she sees the tiny dots of boats and small islands far below her. The ride is smooth as glass until the pilot’s voice speaks into Thelma’s headset, “We’re starting our descent.” That’s when the wind starts to buffet the little plane and it rocks back and forth and sends Thelma into absolute panic.

Quick as a flash, Thelma is out of her seat and jammed against the back of the pilot. Lunging forward, she grabs the controls and the plane goes into a nosedive. “Lady, what are you doing!” screams the pilot.

“You’ve let this plane get completely out of control!” Thelma screams back. “I’m taking over. Now give me your seat.”

“No way!” yells the pilot. “If you don’t let me fly this airplane, we’re gonna crash!” he shouts above the screaming engines. “We just hit a little normal turbulence. Now get back to your seat and let me handle this.”

So often, at the first sign of trouble, we, like Thelma, push God out of the pilot’s seat and take over. And when we do, our bad situation only gets worse. See, just like Thelma’s pilot, we have to relinquish the controls before He’ll be in charge. That’s the only way He can “lead… and teach” us.

If Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life, He must also be the Guide of your life. And that means allowing Him to lead every day, all the time. Trust Him in the good times and bad. He will take every trouble or worry you give to Him, but He’ll never force any of them from you.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Lead me and guide me, so that Your Name will be honored” (Psalm 31:3b, CEV).

We looked at this same verse yesterday, but we only looked at the first half. Today let’s take a look at the second half: “…so that Your Name will be honored.” 

When we allow the Lord to “Lead… and guide…” us – He’s never going to force you to do things His way – we walk in His will and we set an example that brings Him honor. When we claim the name of Jesus but fail to live according to His Word, we dishonor the Lord and, in doing so, encourage other people to do likewise.

In today’s society, people who claim to be Christians often see no need to attend church, avoid bad language, or do anything that in any way identifies them as believers. But what does the Bible say? The KJV has Jesus saying, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16a).

The CEV (Contemporary English Version) makes it even plainer: “You can tell what they are by what they do.” Any true believer can mess up, but no true believer can continue in a lifestyle that ignores the Holy Spirit and dishonors the Lord Jesus. As Jesus’ word teaches, the proof is in the living.

Does your lifestyle honor the Lord Jesus? Make sure what you think, what you say, what you do, and where you go are all pleasing to your Heavenly Father.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Lead me and guide me, so that Your Name will be honored” (Psalm 31:3b, CEV).

You’re enjoying a dude ranch vacation, playing cowboy, and helping to round up a large herd of cattle. As you turn your horse into a narrow canyon, you hear the sounds of countless pounding hooves. It’s a stampede!

“Quick!” the trail boss yells. “Turn around and make for the open!”

Instead, you yell back, “There’s no time! I’ll stay put and hope they go around me!”

If this were really happening, you’d be a pancake right about now. Seeing all the cattle barreling toward you, your horse would have panicked, reared, dumped you in front of the stampede, and high-tailed it outa there. You knew better than the trail boss who’d spent a lifetime dealing with stampedes and all sorts of troubles on the range. But at least, like Frank Sinatra, your flattened little self can lie there and sing, “I did it my way!”

God’s a lot smarter than we are. If we want to be in charge, we want to do things our own way. And that’s never smart. Father knows best. And if we trust Him, we’ll ask Him to be our Guide and we’ll listen for His voice and follow His leading.

Yes, many troubles in this life are unavoidable, but I believe there are far more avoidable ones we find ourselves in simply because we took over the driver’s seat and stepped outside of God’s will. Remember: He’s never going to force you to let Him take charge. And until God's in control, you’re in the driver’s seat. I’ve been there, done that, and it sure wasn’t pretty. And if that’s where you are right now, how’s that working out for you?

Only Jesus can guide us through life with peace in every situation. Every day and every moment, follow the Leader.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I want to wrap up the last two days’ studies by adding the final portion of Philippians 4:7. First, though, let’s take a look at where we started: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:6-7a).

As I said a couple of days ago, you’d have to be brainless not to have concerns when problems arise, but there’s a big difference between lugging around all that stress and carrying it momentarily before giving it to the Lord. We must learn to respond to problems with prayer, not pity parties.

Instead of having a meltdown, call on the Lord. A pity party may temporarily garner you a lot of sympathy, but only prayer can keep you in “God’s peace.” Which brings us to the last half of Verse 7: “…His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7b).

Jesus must be your Constant Companion, not merely who you call on when things get too hard for you to handle. To “live in Christ Jesus” is to be as dependent on His presence in the good times as you are in the bad. To “live in Christ Jesus” is to turn to Him rather than whine to others.

Want your heart and mind shielded from stress and anxiety? “…live in Christ Jesus.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we looked at Philippians 4:6 where Paul tells us how Christians are to handle their problems: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done” (NLT). We’re to take our burdens to the Lord and leave them with Him. Also, as we looked at yesterday, when Paul speaks of gratitude, he isn’t merely talking about what we’ve already seen the Lord do for us, but about having the faith to thank Him for what we have yet to receive. Which results in what?

Paul tells us in the very next sentence: “…you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7a).

Tomorrow, this Easter, will make 12 years since Larry and I have seen our son and daughter-in-law. Since that time, they’ve brought two precious little girls into the world, neither of whom we’ve ever met. We had to give the pain of this situation over to the Lord countless times before we could truly say we’d left it with Him.

Despite our son and daughter-in-law’s lack of contact with us, we firmly believe that, one day, our family will be reunited. And before you even think “That will happen in God’s timing,” let me just say that that’s pure fingernails on a chalkboard for me to hear. God isn’t cruel. He doesn’t want to see me and Larry suffer X amount of time before He’s willing to heal our family. He’s simply being who He is: a Gentleman, who won’t force our son and daughter-in-law to put an end to this separation. God most assuredly isn’t the holdup.

Larry and I wait, totally covered in God’s “peace, which is far beyond human understanding” (GNT). We aren’t pitiful. We aren’t trying to put on brave faces. We truly have absolute peace.

And so can you, regardless of what you’re experiencing. Keep praying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Know that whether God is allowed to remove your difficulty (because, like in my and Larry’s case, He doesn’t force other people to do what He wants them to do) or just walk with you through it, He is there for you and always will be.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done” (Philipians 4:6, NLT).

In this passage, Paul offers some very simple advice that is so much easier to read than to actually follow: “Don’t worry about anything.” You’d have to be brainless not to have concerns when problems arise, but there’s a big difference between lugging around all that stress and carrying it momentarily before giving it to the Lord.

That’s where the “pray about everything” part comes in. Prayer is a discipline. The more we practice it, the more natural a response it becomes. Instead of having a meltdown during a crisis, we learn to call on the Lord. And the quicker we turn a problem over to the Lord, the quicker that burden is lifted. Yes, we may pick it back up 100 times, but that simply means we’ve got to give it back to Him 101 times.

The last half of this verse is not always fully understood by some readers: “Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” The “Tell God what you need” part is easy to understand. Whatever you need, tell Him. As the old hymn says, “Take it to the Lord in prayer.”

But here’s the deal: sometimes what we THINK we need and what we truly need aren’t the same. Step out in faith and confess that you will trust Him no matter what. Period.

Finally, Paul says to “thank Him for all He has done.” When Jesus Christ, the Living Word, spoke Creation into existence, He saw every moment in time, including the one happening right this second. So when Paul says to “thank Him for all He has done,” he isn’t merely talking about what you’ve seen the Lord do for you. He’s also talking about having the faith to thank Him for what you have yet to receive. Do you have it?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Many people did believe in Him… including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue” (John 12:42, NLT).

“But they wouldn’t admit it…” Folks, there’s a heap of difference between believing Jesus is God in the Flesh and committing your life to Him because of that belief. According to my Bible, even demons know who Jesus is, and knowing that doesn’t make them “saved,”either, which is why James said:

“You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror” (James 2:19). 

There isn’t a demon in all of existence who doesn’t know exactly who Jesus is. But have they committed themselves to serving Jesus? Of course not.

And neither has any person whose outward behavior doesn’t demonstrate an inward change. Romans 10:9 says it like this: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Note that’s a two-pronged action: (1) “…you confess with your mouth…” and (2) “…believe in your heart…” Head knowledge must be accompanied by heart acceptance.

For every person who has truly committed his heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ, “He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf” (Hebrews 7:25b). Or as First John 2:1b puts it, “…we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ…”

Jesus will never let you down. Don’t let Him down. Let nothing and no one intimidate you into remaining silent about your faith in Jesus Christ.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I have a feeling some professing Christians have unknowingly painted a big red target on their own backs. How’s that? By being unkind to people they don’t think come up to par or really matter. By passing judgment on people who don’t look, think, and act the same as they do. Jesus had a strong message for people like these:

“For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged” (Matthew 7:2, NLT).

Yow! When I think about the way I’ve treated some folks, it’s a scary thought to read this passage and realize what I deserve in return. How about you? 

And what about judging other people? Been there, done that, too. And yet the Lord sternly warns us that we’re digging mighty big holes for ourselves when we mistreat others or judge them.

So how do we stop this bad behavior – or as Jesus would more plainly put it: sin? See others through the eyes of Jesus. We’re to love the unlovely. We’re to love those who aren’t like us. We’re to love because “He loved us first” (I John 4:19b).

While we were ugly and nasty and mired deep in sin, He loved us. And so should we love others. Remember: lost people are lost. They don’t act like Christians. We can’t expect them to act like Christians. And we can’t judge them as though their behavior should be Christian. As Jude puts it, we’re to “…look with pity mingled with fear, while you hate every trace of their sin” (Jude 1:23b, Weymouth New Testament). Hate the sin, yes, but love the sinner. Just as Christ loved us “…while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8b, Berean Study Bible).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12, NLT).

How do we repay the Lord for what He’s done for us? We can’t. What we can do, though, is show our continual gratitude by living in obedience to His Word. And how do we do that? By clothing ourselves with what the apostle Paul lays out in our verse for today.

“…tenderhearted mercy…” Do we reserve this for those who deserve it? No, we’re to have this attitude unconditionally. Human nature isn’t big on mercy, but we have to remember the kind of mercy we ourselves were shown – and continue to be shown – by the Lord. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV). We didn’t get what we deserved. Instead, we received grace and we should extend that same grace, “tenderhearted mercy,” to others.

“…kindness…” Did you know that the word “kindness” comes from the same word as the word “kin”? In showing “kindness,” we’re showing kinship. In what sense? It’s easy to show “kindness” to those we love, but our kinship to the Lord Jesus should cause us to extend “kindness” to everyone, including those who might consider themselves our enemies.

“…humility…” We can’t think of ourselves as better than anyone and be able to love them as Jesus does. We are to be humble, as Christ was humble. “…to the humble He gives favor” (Proverbs 3:34, ESV).

“…gentleness…” “A gentle answer deflects anger…” (Proverbs 15:1a, NLT). Striving to maintain a gentle spirit is worth every effort because it means less conflict in your own life and a greater ability to soothe tension in others.

“…patience” If the Lord had not been patient with me, I would have been lost forever. I’d been raised in church. I married a Christian. I thought I was a Christian. But when I realized I had all head knowledge and no heart knowledge, I confessed my need for a Savior and He graciously welcomed me into His Kingdom. And even today, as I fumble and stumble along the way, He continues to patiently lift me up. Let’s try to be as patient with others as God is with us.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I recently read a post from a professing Christian who was angry at some people and spouting off about how they’d “get theirs.” With people like that claiming to be a child of God, no wonder so many people make fun of Christians and Jesus Himself. To them, we’re a joke. We claim to believe the Bible and yet we behave just like the rest of the world. But what does the Bible tell us?

“Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and He will bless you for it” (I Peter 3:9, NLT).

Instead of bad-mouthing those who mistreat you, “pay them back with a blessing.” A year or so ago, I had an on-air contest for 20 pairs of free tickets to an event. The respondents were to use Facebook to message me their entry. As soon as I was off camera, I began going through the entries, checking the time on each message and writing down the 20 earliest ones.

That gave me my 20 winners. But one lady who didn’t win became angry and began sending me threatening messages: “I happen to know I was the very first entry. You’ll be sorry for cheating me like this.”

This woman’s messages became more and more nasty, even though I explained that I’d chosen the winners by the times of their responses and that hers was too late to have been a winner. I was as kind as possible with each of my responses, but her replies only got worse. I finally told her I was sorry she felt she’d been cheated, but she hadn’t been, and I would pray for her to have peace about the situation. She responded with, “Don’t you dare pray for me, you…!”

That poor lady couldn’t stop me from praying for her. And as I prayed, I realized more and more how sad her life must have been to be so distrusting of others and to be willing to lie and threaten over a pair of $20 tickets. The Lord continues to put her name on my heart and I pray for her every time He does this. I hope you do the same for those who’ve mistreated you.

“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 5:44).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Peter and John were arrested while preaching in the temple. Many men, women, and children believed their message and committed themselves to following Jesus; also, a crippled man received miraculous healing. “The next day, the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. They brought in the two disciples and demanded, ‘By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?’”

“…Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them… ‘Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ… There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved’” (Acts 4:10a, 12).

Folks, either Peter and John were preaching truth or they were preaching a lie. We can’t pick and choose what we want to keep and cast aside out of the Word of God. My Bible tells me “God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Not Buddha. Not Mohammed. Not Joseph Smith. No one.

I know some very sweet people who are Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and other faiths. I love them dearly. But I still tell them about Jesus because I believe what my Bible tells me: “There is salvation in no one else!”

If your faith is in the “man upstairs” or a “higher power” or your “spirit guide,” you’re believing a lie – if you don’t know who or what to call what you believe in, that’s not faith. And if your faith is in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ, you’ve put your trust in a lie. “…be sure that your faith is in God alone,” says James 1:6b. Or as Jesus Himself more plainly put it, “…unless you believe that I am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins”  (John 8:24b).

If you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, live like it. And if you don’t know Him, you can change that with one simple prayer: “… I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God…” (John 11:27b).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3, KJV).

Or, as the NLT words it: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”

“Perfect peace” seems mighty hard to come by in this day and time, doesn’t it? We look around us and see a world in turmoil. We look around our own homes and see problems and sickness and things which we have zero control over and think, “What am I going to do?”

As always, the Bible has the Answer. Get your mind off your problems and on Jesus.

Have you ever used Super Glue? I remember the first time I tried it. I got a tiny speck on one of my fingertips. When I touched it with a finger from my other hand to see if it was really all that sticky (I know – a really smart move), my two fingers became stuck together. I couldn’t get them apart! It was like they were welded together.

And that’s how our faith in Jesus Christ needs to be: welded so tightly that absolutely nothing can change our focus. (And, by the way, Larry showed up and used acetone to unglue my finger.) I know this is easier said than done, but what does focusing on the problem do? You feel more stressed. Frustrated. Hopeless. Frantic.

Focusing on Jesus has the exact opposite effect: “Perfect peace.” I can’t count on all my fingers and toes the situations I’ve found myself in where I could have absolutely panicked. Instead, I called out to Jesus and kept calling out until He wrapped me in His “Perfect peace.”

I’ve said this a jillion times, but it still bears repeating: God is a Gentleman. He will never force anything on you, including His “Perfect peace.” You have to be willing to call on Him, trust Him, and keep trusting, even when your circumstance doesn’t change or even changes for the worse. With His “Perfect peace,” you can make through whatever you’re dealing with.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday I’d said there were two possibilities when a person calls out and feels like his prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. The first was sin. As Isaiah 59:1b plainly shows, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God” (NLT). “Cut… off” as in severing your kinship to Jesus? No. But definitely in the sense of hindering your fellowship with the Savior. Unconfessed sin festers. Never let a day go by without a time of confession.

But what about the second possibility? Jude 1:19b puts it like this: “…they do not have God's Spirit in them.” A person who has never asked Jesus Christ to forgive him of his sins and be Lord and Savior of his life doesn’t have the Holy Spirit living within him. And that means such a person is not a member of the family of God.

There is but one prayer such a person can pray and expect to be heard, and that, my friends, is the prayer we find in Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

We can’t continually talk and live contrary to what the Bible teaches and be a child of God. But can God’s own children mess up? You betcha. If I’m honest, I can say with the apostle Paul, “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7:19). Human nature doesn’t naturally want to obey God. It takes the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to keep us on the right track with God.

That said, if you want to see your prayer life perk up, then first ‘fess up. If you’ve never asked Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior, that’s where you have to start. And once you’ve become a member of the family of God, maintain a daily prayer life that includes confessing your sins of omission (things you should have done, but didn’t) and commission (things you shouldn’t have done, but did).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is His ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God” (Isaiah 59:1, NLT).

Ever feel like the Lord is a million miles away? I know I have. Fact is, though, the Lord sticks by every one of His children – see Hebrews 13:5. From the moment you ask Jesus Christ into your heart, He stays with you in the form of His indwelling Holy Spirit. So what’s going on when you call out and feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling?

There are two distinct possibilities, one being noted in today’s passage: “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.” Does sin sever your adoption into the Kingdom of God (see Ephesians 1:5)? Paul gives us his answer in Romans 8:38: “…I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.”

So if sin doesn’t sever our kinship with Jesus, what does it do? It hinders our fellowship. And if we go right on without confessing that sin, it gets harder and harder to ever sit down and “have a little talk with Jesus.” Think of it this way. Your friend Jane said something hurtful about you. She saw you walking in just as it came out of her mouth, but instead of coming to you and apologizing, she hurried out the other door and you haven’t seen or heard from her since. Jane, no doubt, regrets what happened. But regretting it and doing something about it are two different things, and the longer Jane puts off apologizing to you, the harder it’s going to be for her to ever get back in touch.

Likewise with God. When we sin, we hurt Him. And the longer we put off apologizing – that is, repenting – the harder it is to turn to Him and ask for forgiveness.

None of us are perfect – far from it. Make confession a daily part of your prayer life. Don’t let anything interfere with your fellowship with Jesus. When it comes to any sin of omission or commission, do as Barney Fife says and “Nip it in the bud.”

I’d said there are two possibilities when a person calls out and feels like his prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. We’ll look at the second one tomorrow.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!” (Isaiah 58:9b, NLT).

If you’re bad-mouthing another person, you’re “pointing your finger.” When it comes to spreading “vicious rumors,” today’s society seems to have become not only great at it, but proud of it. And yet what does the Bible say about such behavior?

“Do not spread slanderous gossip…” (Leviticus 19:16a). I’ve actually heard this kind of gossip delivered as a prayer request: “We need to pray for So-and-So. She and her husband are having some serious troubles. I hear he’s cheating on her.” What you “hear” may not be true. Besides, God knows the need. There’s no need to tell it. Just pray.

“Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip…” (Proverbs 17:4a). The more messed-up some people’s lives are, the more they seem to enjoy hearing and telling everybody else’s private business. If a person starts sharing someone else’s personal situation with you, you can do one of two things: (1) Walk away; or (2) change that gossip’s attitude in a heartbeat by simply holding up a hand and saying, “Let’s just stop right now and pray for them.” Refuse to join in on backstabbing and turn gossip sessions into prayer meetings.

Think and pray before you talk about another person. Ask yourself: will this honor or dishonor that person? Will telling this positively or negatively affect my Christian witness?

“Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips” (Psalm 141:3).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Continuing our look at Isaiah 58, let’s see what the Lord says in verse 7: Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help” (NLT).

“Share your food with the hungry…” That’s simple enough. If you know of a need around you, meet it. I will never forget the dear friends who showed up with groceries when, years ago, Larry was laid off from U.S. Steel. So many people struggle payday to payday. Single moms come home from work too tired to cook. Elderly couples and lonely widows and widowers are all around us. What a blessing you would be to deliver supper to some of these people.

“…give shelter to the homeless.” Few people would be comfortable inviting a stranger to stay in their home, but you can support ministries that help care for the homeless. Even if you don’t have money to give, you can donate items you’re no longer using. Too, find out what ministries the thrift stores around you support and spend your dollars at the ones that do the most for the needy.

Give clothes to those who need them…” You can do this by donating to local thrift stores and church clothes closets. You can also offer your kids’ or grandkids’ hand-me-downs directly to a family who can put those clothes to use. And if you know someone well enough to be comfortable doing this, take that person in need shopping and let her pick out her own outfits.

“…and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” While I can’t stress strongly enough the huge difference between helping and enabling, you should be willing to do whatever you can to help your relatives, or any brother or sister in Christ, or any person who has a legitimate need. It isn’t always easy or convenient to help others, but when the need is real, it’s always the right thing to do and always what Jesus would have you to do.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


…this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people” (Isaiah 58:6b).

We modern-day folks don’t like to give up anything, yet fasting is still a valid way of getting our minds and hearts off the things of this world and focusing on the Lord. I will say, however, that if you have any sort of medical condition, you should never attempt a fast without first consulting your doctor.

That said, though, fasting can sharpen our prayer lives and draw us closer to Jesus. Look at verse 6 in the context of today. In America, the greatest number of people who are “imprisoned,” “oppressed,” and in “chains” are those trapped by addiction. I seriously doubt there’s one person reading this who doesn’t have a close friend or relative struggling with addiction.

We should definitely pray for these people, but I truly believe when we combine the power of fasting and prayer, as we “fast and pray” (Nehemiah 1:4 & Luke 5:33), we’ll see God move like never before.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

“If God has such wonderful plans for my life,” some of you may be thinking, “then why is my life in such a mess?” Could it be that your own plans have led you down a pathway God never intended for you to walk? Even the most faithful believer has problems, but a lot of the troubles we find ourselves in are caused by our own bad choices.

Look again at today’s passage: “‘For I know the plans I have for you…” While the Lord knows what’s best for our lives, He doesn’t force-feed anyone His plan. Each person has to choose.

And that’s our problem. Instead of fully trusting in Jesus, we try to do things our own way. And anytime we’re in charge instead of God, we’re either already in a mess or headed toward one.

Wanna reduce your stress level? Get out of the driver’s seat and give the Lord His rightful place in your life: first.

Jesus gave us His formula for success. All we have to do is follow it: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33, KJV). 

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I praise God for what He has promised; yes, I praise the Lord for what He has promised” (Psalm 56:10, NLT).

Just what has God promised? If you could use some Good News, the Word of God is loaded with it! I hope these passages will help you get your praise on:

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29, NIV). Need strength? Need power? Ask in faith. And keep asking. The Lord never gets tired of hearing from His children.

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:8, NLT). If Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, you have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the third part of the Holy Trinity, living within you. He’s going to stick with you through thick and thin. Trust Him.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). 

Worrying accomplishes nothing. Praying can move mountains. And even the mountains the Lord chooses not to remove can be crossed in peace “as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Ever felt like no one cares about what you’re going through? The psalmist David had good reason to be down in the dumps when he wrote Psalm 56. Even so, he knew there was One who was always on his side and cared about every single detail of his life. That’s why he said of the Lord:

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book” (Psalm 56:8, NLT).

If you are a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, this passage is also for you. God knows your every sorrow. He sees every tear you shed. And He sent His Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to stay with you throughout your lifetime from the moment you prayed to receive Him as Lord and Savior.

Get alone with the Lord and pour out your heart. Ask Him to wrap you in His peace. And sit or kneel quietly and wait, because He will surely hear and answer.

“My enemies will retreat when I call to You for help. This I know: God is on my side!” (Psalm 56:9).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Great is our Lord and mighty in power…” (Psalm 147:5a, NIV).

A single bolt of cloud-to-ground lightning contains up to one billion volts of electricity. That much energy produces a temperature in excess of 36,032 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightning is a formidable power, and when it touches you, you know it.

God Almighty, the Lord Jesus Christ, created lightning, and He is far more powerful than any li’l ol’ lightning bolt. He’s far more powerful than anything else in existence. After all, He’s the one who spoke the entirety of creation into being – see John 1:1-3. When He touches you, you know it. When He touches you, you’re changed.

So let me ask a question: how is it that it’s clear as a bell when a person is struck by lightning, but pretty hazy when it comes to some people who profess to have been touched – that is, saved – by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? In truth, the change should be as clear as that of the person struck by lightning.

The moment Christ saves a person, He comes to live within that person in the form of His Holy Spirit. He becomes filled with the very Power (“dunamis,” in the Greek, from which we get our English word “dynamite”) who made EVERYTHING out of NOTHING.

If you profess to be a Christian, you’re claiming you’ve been changed by the greatest Power in the universe. And that, my friends, should make an obvious difference between who you were pre-Jesus and who you are now. If you haven’t changed, you need to back up and do a reality check. Don’t miss heaven. Make certain the Holy Spirit lives within you.

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom… Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons’” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 25:34a, 41, NLT).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else” (Galatians 6:4, NLT).

Who does Paul say you’re to keep a close watch on? Yourself. If you’re busy doing the things the Lord privileges you to do for His Kingdom, you won’t have time to eyeball other people’s “work” or get into other people’s business. And that, my brothers and sisters, means living a far more peaceable life.

Too, when a Christian is giving his best for the glory of God, he receives “the satisfaction of a job well done.” And that’s a very good feeling.

Another thing focusing on your own work will do for you? “…you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else.” The Christian life isn’t a competition. We aren’t competing against each other for a spot in heaven.

Note, too, the word I used in my opening paragraph: privilege. It is indeed a privilege to work for the Lord. It’s not a chore. It’s not a burden. It’s a spectacular privilege. Treat it as such and see that your work is “well done.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates 


“…we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:15-16, NLT).

Paul is teaching about the part played by each member of the body of Christ. “Christ, who is the head of His body, the church… makes the whole body fit together perfectly.” He does this by assigning every believer a part in the building up of the Kingdom of God and equipping that person to fulfill that calling. So what can we learn from this one short passage?

Every believer has his “own special work” assignment. And when we fulfill that assignment, we help “the other parts grow.” When every member of the body of Christ does what he should be doing, the church “is healthy and growing and full of love.”

Is your church “healthy”? Is it “growing”? Is it “full of love”? If not, why not? Do your part to see these positive attributes in your church, and encourage others to do likewise.

Oh, and as you do this, what else is going to happen? You’ll grow “in every way more and more like Christ.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there” (Luke 16:26, NLT).

In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (not the same Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead), Jesus gives us a terrifying look at a man who rejected the free gift of salvation. The man drew his last breath here and instantly drew his first breath in torment. The rich man looks up into heaven and asks that Lazarus be sent to him just to put a drop of water on his tongue. “…I am in anguish in these flames,” (Luke 16:24b), the man moaned.

As I mentioned yesterday, note that the rich man is completely alone. He is separated from all other human contact and, most of all, he is eternally separated from the splendors of heaven, although clearly able to see just what he’s missing.

The man had spent his lifetime living for himself. He’d ignored his own spiritual need and he’d ignored the physical and spiritual needs of others. Now, realizing the horrible place where he would spend forever, he asks that Lazarus be sent back to earth, “For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment” (Luke 16:28).

During his lifetime, this man had every opportunity to entrust his life to the Lord. He also had the opportunity to set an example in front of his five brothers that would show them the right way to live. But he did neither. And now it was too late.

Unless you’ve already committed your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, “too late” is only one breath away. Likewise for those friends and family members who haven’t accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Time is short. Don’t waste a single opportunity to tell someone how they can receive Jesus.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27, NLT).

One of the most popular shows on TV today is “The Good Place.” Wikipedia describes it as focused on a woman who has died and been sent to “The Good Place” as a “reward for her righteous life. She then realizes that she was sent there by mistake and must hide her morally imperfect behavior and try to become a better person.”

Folks, that may make for some entertaining television, but in reality, once you draw your last breath on earth, your eternal destination is permanently sealed, and God makes zero mistakes. Your eternal home is determined by one thing and one thing only: your commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. If you haven’t made that commitment before death, your eternity will be spent forever separated from Him.

People make jokes about partying in hell and being with all their fellow partyers, but how did Jesus describe it? In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, a poor beggar not to be confused with the man Jesus raised from the dead. The rich man, “…in torment,… saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side” (Luke 16:23b).

Jesus’ teaching in this passage indicates two things: (1) the person in hell is “in torment” and complete isolation. And (2), people in hell can see heaven. How horrible for a person to forever see the Person and the place he rejected.

We fervently pray for those who are sick and going through personal trauma, but how fervently do we pray for those who may be headed for an eternity of separation from Jesus? Pray for the sick. Pray for the hurting. But, by all means, make praying for the lost your Number One priority.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:10, NLT).

As I said yesterday, “Christian” is more than a word. “Christian” is a defining statement that the person who claims that name has been changed through faith in Jesus Christ. And that change includes making a conscious effort to break bad habits and live to please the Savior. Yet I see every day on Facebook alone countless people who post a Bible verse one minute and a dirty joke or cussing rant the next. “…my brothers and sisters,” as James said in our passage today, “this is not right!”

We can’t walk and talk like the world and honor Jesus. Think about it this way: you walk into a friend’s house and you’re so thirsty you feel like your tongue is stuck to the roof of your mouth. “Let me get you a glass of water,” your friend says, reaching into a sink filled with dirty dishes and pulling out a glass full of sink water. You’d have to be near dead to drink that icky-looking stuff!

“Uh,” you tell you friend. “Can I have a clean glass and clean water?”

“Water’s water,” replies your friend. “Here. Drink it.”

You wouldn’t think much of a friend who’d treat you like that, would you? So imagine how Jesus feels when we, by our behavior and words, say “Christian is Christian.” No, it’s not. Christian is being like Jesus. When we talk or behave in any other way, there’s nothing Christian about it. Don’t claim the label of “Christian” and then embarrass the Lord with what you say or post or how you act. As James said, “… this is not right!”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves” (James 1:22, NLT).

As I’ve said before, I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count all the people I dearly love who tell me they’re Christians, yet never darken a church door. I realize a person can be saved and not go to church – look at the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43). But bear in mind what hindered that man from every hitting the church doors: he died.

I will again say that I am in no way criticizing those who are physically unable to go to church, but I am fully convinced that, with churches absolutely surrounding us, there is only one reason not to be a churchgoer: you don’t want to go.

And what does the Bible say? “…don't just listen to God's word …do what it says.” And what does it say? Go to church! Hebrews 10:25. Go to church! Acts 2:42. Go to church! Colossians 3:16. Go to church! Romans 10:17.

As I was writing this, I was thinking of the four living generations of a particular family I'm acquainted with. Grandma and Grandpa professed to be Christians, but never saw the need to go to church, so their son didn’t see the need to go, either. Son’s child followed his parents’example, and now the newest generation has never had one solitary churchgoing family member set an example before them and, therefore, sees zero reason why they can’t be “Christian” even if they don’t attend church, read their Bibles, or live in any way that resembles a Christian lifestyle.

“Christian” is more than a word. “Christian” is a defining statement that the person who claims that name has been changed through faith in Jesus Christ. I firmly believe if you love Him, you love His Church. And if you claim to be a Christian and you have no interest in going to church, you need to re-examine where you stand with Jesus. You may be “…only fooling…” yourself.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord's Supper), and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, NLT).

What does the word “devoted” mean? If you’re “devoted” to something, you’ve given up all else to concentrate on that one particular pursuit, occupation, cause, or purpose. That’s what the apostles had done. Remember what Peter told the Lord in Matthew 19:27? “We’ve given up everything to follow you.” And that’s what the people of the early church had done in following the teachings of Jesus.

In today’s society, the vast majority of professing Christians aren’t willing to even devote a few minutes to prayer and Bible reading every day. And yes, I know we’re all busy; but folks, we make time for whatever’s important to us.

The early believers didn’t have a Bible they could sit down with. They were learning as the apostles taught them. And as they learned, they were able to teach others. The snowball effect.

The early believers spent time together in “fellowship.” They shared meals together. They prayed together. They did the things that kept their congregations at peace with God and one another. They loved the church because they loved the Lord and their fellow believers. They set an example that was attractive to those who didn’t yet know Jesus, and they equipped themselves to be able to explain their faith to those who became curious enough to ask about it.

And no doubt, they didn’t wait on lost people to come to them. They followed Christ’s command to “Go out… and urge anyone you find to come…” (Luke 14:23).

Who has ever come to church because you invited them? Who has ever come to Jesus because you told them about your Savior?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13, NLT).

These three verses start off with a list of different kinds of church leaders: “…the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.” Notice what their responsibility is:

“…to equip God’s people…” Equip them to do what? “…His work…”

What!?! It’s not just the job of the preachers and teachers “…to do His work…”? You read it right here, folks. It’s EVERY believer’s job.

And just what sort of work are we to do? “…build up the church, the body of Christ.” You and I are to be about the Father’s business, encouraging those within the church and reaching outside the church to invite others in.

And how long should we be doing this? “This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” And since none of us have even come remotely close to having arrived there yet, it’s obvious we’ve a lot more work to do.

Take just a moment to think about this question and then give yourself an honest answer: If the growth of the Kingdom of God was entirely dependent on your own performance, where would it be at this very moment?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts” (Colossians 3:16, NLT).

Let’s break this one verse down into segments and take a look at each part. First, Paul says to “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.” How does anything fill your life? By being a part of your every waking moment. Does this mean you have to have your nose stuck in the Bible all the time? No, but it does mean that the things of God and the “…message about Christ…” should be continually on your mind, guiding in your behavior, your attitude, and your responses – even in unpleasant situations.

“Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives.” One of my favorite Bible verses is First Corinthians 1:30, which reminds us that “…Christ has become our wisdom…” You can’t get any smarter than that! And we’re to “Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives.” How much does He give? As much as you’ll receive. How do you receive? By reading and studying your Bible and by being a regular part of a Bible-teaching and preaching church.

Lastly, this passage says we’re to “Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” Granted, you can sing around the house and in the car and anywhere else you choose to. But you should also sing in church. And in order to do that, you have to be there. And if you’re there, you’re part of a heavenly choir of voices gathered together to praise the Lord. Being in God’s house is one way of demonstrating we have “thankful hearts.”

Are you thankful for what Christ has done for you? Then express your thankfulness by being faithful to his body, the Church.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ” (Romans 10:17, NLT).

A true believer in Jesus Christ has faith, right? So if you already have faith, why do you need church? To answer that question, let’s first take a look at Luke 17:5. Christ’s apostles may not have had the full picture, but they did have faith. Yet what did they say to Jesus? “Show us how to increase our faith.” 

Seems to me if the apostles who walked right alongside Jesus needed a little help in that department, we might need help, also.

Which brings us back to our verse for today. When you attend church, you hear “the Good News about Christ.” Yes, you can read and should read your Bible and pray at home, but your pastor is called and equipped to add to what you are learning at home and so are the leaders of your Bible study classes.

So guess what? The more you hear about Jesus, the more you learn about Jesus. The more you learn about Jesus, the more you love Him and want to serve Him and live for Him. And part of living for Him is taking the time out of your busy week to worship Him as part of a corporate body of believers.

I can’t count on all my fingers and toes the number of people I dearly love who profess to be Christians but never set foot in church and never contribute a dime toward a church’s financial support. Those same people are now seeing one and two generations growing up behind them and following in their footsteps.

If Christ thought you were worth dying for, surely He’s worth living for. Believe in His church. Visit, visit, visit until you find the one that seems right for you. Then dive in and become and active part of that body. Set the kind of example you want your family to follow.

“…as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her…” (Ephesians 5:25b).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Most of us have heard and read this verse many times: And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25, NLT).

There are any number of excuses for not attending church, and let me say up front that I am in no way being critical of those who are physically unable to get out and go. But what about all the other excuses? I want to take a look at three popular ones:

“I’m not getting anything out of it.” What are you putting into it? Do you fly in late and run out during the invitation or do you pray for the service and your own attitude before you get there and for those who are making decisions and asking for prayer?

“Those people are such hypocrites.” Every church has ‘em, but why pull out and let them take over? Instead, be faithful. Set a Christlike example. Your attitude toward those “hypocrites” may just lead one to real change of attitude. And remember: you ain’t perfect, either.

“You have no idea how badly someone at church hurt me.” I’ve been insulted in a grocery store parking lot. Did that stop me from buying groceries? Nope. Didn’t even stop me from shopping the very same grocer. Put on your big girl panties (or big boy briefs) and move on, whether that means simply letting go of the hurt and giving it to God or literally finding a different church to serve in.

A recent survey shows that only 20 percent of Americans attend church on any sort of regular basis. And because of the lack of support both in attendance and finances, somewhere around 4,000 churches will close their doors this year alone. What part will you play in keeping your church open or seeing it shut its door for good?

First and foremost, “church” isn’t about US. It’s about HIM. This is our opportunity to set everything else aside and focus on thanking and praising God for His goodness and mercy. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about God’s Word and hear a message of hope and motivation, as well as do just what our passage today tells us: “…encourage one another…” It’s not only about what can be done for you, but about what you can do for others.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


In the past three days, we’ve looked at nine of what I’m calling my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. Let’s review the first six and then I’ll add three more. (1) Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. (2) Put your commitment to Christ above all else. (3) Put the needs of others ahead of your wants. (4) Spend time daily in the Word and in prayer. (5) Attend church regularly. (6) Become a blessing to your pastor and church staff. (7) Learn your spiritual gifts and use them in specific places of service. (8) Consciously seek opportunities to tell others about Jesus. (9) Confess your need for Christ’s control over your finances.

(10) Determine to live within your income. Trust God as your Provider and refuse to create credit card or any other unnecessary debt. “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11b).

(11) Begin to eliminate all credit debt. Concentrate on paying off credit cards, focusing first on the one with the lowest balance. Romans 13:8a says, “Do not owe anyone anything…” Pay your debts on or before their due dates.

(12) Faithfully tithe to your local church and trust God’s Word for His provision. Like a bucket under a spout, tithing aligns believers to receive God’s blessings. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


In the past two days, we’ve looked at the first six of what I’m calling my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. Let’s review the first six and then I’ll add three more. (1) Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. (2) Put your commitment to Christ above all else. (3) Put the needs of others ahead of your wants. (4) Spend time daily in the Word and in prayer. (5) Attend church regularly. (6) Become a blessing to your pastor and church staff.

(7) Learn your spiritual gifts and use them in specific places of service. Until you find that perfect fit, just serve wherever and however you can. You’re far more likely to find shoes that fit by trying them on rather than by staring at them through the window. “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God” (First Peter 4:10).

(8) Consciously seek opportunities to tell others about Jesus. The day you accepted Christ’s offer of salvation, you volunteered for service in the Army of God. And that means active duty – you’re on assignment: “…in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us” (Second Corinthians 5:19).

(9) Confess your need for Christ’s control over your finances. Everything we claim as our own is simply on loan to us from the True Owner. Commit to follow His guidance in managing all that’s been entrusted to you. Only through the leadership of the Holy Spirit can we properly manage money. “Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much. So if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own? You can’t be slaves to both God and money” (Luke 16:1012, 13b).

I hope you’ll go back over today’s and the past two days’ studies and evaluate where you stand on the nine topics we’ve covered so far. You’ll find a link to all this year’s studies below. We’ll wrap up with the final three tips tomorrow.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we looked at the first three of what I’m calling my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. The first three were: (1) Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. (2) Put your commitment to Christ above all else. (3) Put the needs of others ahead of your wants. And now we come to the next three:

(4) Spend time daily in the Word and in prayer. The Living Word wants you to spend time with Him. Remember that prayer is a two-way conversation; don’t just talk to God – sit quietly and wait for Him to speak to you. “Happy is the man [whose] …delight is in the Lord’s instruction… he meditates on it day and night” (from Psalm 1:1-2).

(5) Attend church regularly. As a member of the family of God, it’s important to spend time with and worship with fellow believers. “…not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other…” (from Hebrews 10:25a).

(6) Become a blessing to your pastor and church staff. According to a survey of 1,050 pastors conducted by the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development, 802 (71 percent) respondents stated they were burned out and struggled with depression and fatigue on a weekly and even daily basis. There is no end of volunteers to criticize pastors; be one of the rare few who encourage them. “Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work” (First Thessalonians 5:12-13a).

We’ve covered half the tips already. Look over them. Pray over them. And I’ll have three more to add tomorrow.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


As we wrap up February and head into March, I want to give you my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. Today, I’ll give you the first three:

  • Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. God wants more than a relationship; He wants a total commitment. “Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek Him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:2).

  • Put your commitment to Christ above all else. Only when Christ has first place in your life can the rest of your life be in right order. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:33).

  • Put the needs of others ahead of your wants. If we look at the life of Jesus, we realize that our time on earth is not about personal comfort, but about being a comfort to others. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 10:45a).

Voila! You have the first three tips. I hope you’ll mull these over and truly examine yourself to see what areas need the most improvement. I’ll just go ahead and put my hand up and say I need improvement on all three. I’ll have three more for you tomorrow.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates